MADEIRA BEACH — Shane Crawford of Wisconsin will be the new city manager, assuming that he and the city commissioners who chose him Tuesday can reach an agreement on his contract.
During the past year, the commission twice offered the job to other candidates, only to be turned down during contract negotiations.
Colin Baenziger, the consultant hired to find a new slate of candidates for the position, came up with a list of six finalists from about 150 applicants. The commission interviewed those finalists last week.
Contract negotiations between Crawford and the commission will be coordinated by Baenziger, who will also consult with Mayor Travis Palladeno and City Attorney Tom Trask.
Crawford's selection Tuesday night was ultimately unanimous. Commissioner Terry Lister at first voted against Crawford, but later joined with the commission majority to give Crawford a unanimous vote of support if he decides to take the job.
The city has been without a permanent city manager since February, when W.D. Higginbotham Jr. asked the commission to fire him. At the time, Higginbotham said he could not work with the new commission he expected to be elected in March.
Fire Chief Bill Mallory was appointed interim city manager and served for eight months until he quit that post last month to return his full attention to the fire department. A month later, Mallory resigned that post as well to become fire chief in Treasure Island.
On Friday, interim city manager Jim Madden effectively fired Mallory, one day after he resigned effective Dec. 2.
Instead of allowing Mallory to work the next two weeks, Madden told him to clean out his desk and leave the building.
When Mallory returned on Monday to pick up the last of his belongings, he was greeted with a disciplinary letter Madden wrote accusing him of twice violating city spending policies. Madden wanted Mallory to sign the censure before it was put into Mallory's permanent file.
Madden was strongly criticized by residents, some commissioners and Mallory himself, for the disciplinary action.
Resident Robert Shaw called Mallory's firing "a final nail in the coffin" of the original city administrative staff and predicted that if such actions against employees continued the city would face a "class action lawsuit for a hostile work environment."
When Palladeno tried to argue that Mallory left the city to earn more money in Treasure Island, he was shouted down by an angry audience. Madden was also shouted down when he defended his action.
Mallory said he intended to remain working in Madeira Beach, but decided for "self-preservation" he had to leave. ... I have no intention of signing anything from you," Mallory said, as he accused Madden of lying.
Mallory then played an audio recording of a unanimous commission giving him permission to spend money to fix the city's public works building roof, an action Madden said in the disciplinary letter was done without such permission.
When he asked the commission to direct Madden not to put the letter in his file, the audience clapped in agreement.
Lister apologized to Mallory for Madden's actions, saying "it was wrong."
Commissioner Carol Reynolds and Palladeno joined Lister in asking Madden to rescind the disciplinary letter and put Mallory on administrative leave, reinstating his remaining two weeks of salary.
Madden, who as city manager, makes the final decision regarding city employees, did not say what he would do.
Resident Brian Bornemann urged him to "do the right thing."
Mallory's departure marks the eighth top administration official to either resign, be fired or have their jobs eliminated since the beginning of the year.
If Crawford takes the job he would essentially have to rebuild the entire city staff.
One post that the manager won't fill is that of public works director. The commission expects the new manager to fill that role, as well as managing the city.
Crawford, who is in his mid-30s, is deputy county administrator in charge of central services for Wisconsin's Walworth County, which has a $155 million annual budget, 825 employees and a population of 100,000.
Madeira Beach, which is 2 miles long, has a population of 4,263 and employs 71 city workers with an annual budget of about $12 million.
Crawford is responsible for public works, intergovernmental relations, and central purchasing. He directly supervises two people and indirectly supervises 80 others.
Previously, he was the county's director of public works. From 2000 to 2004, he was county administrator and administrative coordinator for Buffalo County, also in Wisconsin.
Crawford holds a bachelor's degree in public administration and political science, and at the age of 19 was elected to the La Crosse (Wisc.) City Council, where he served for four years.
Baenziger's background analysis describes Crawford as a strong, well organized leader.
If Crawford decides not come to Madeira Beach, the commission's second pick, Judy Whitis, will be offered the job. Whitis has been manager for the Panhandle city of Callaway since 1997. She previously served as the city clerk.